Raised in the South, I was indoctrinated at an early age with all of the Southern myths about the Civil War: a war of Northern Aggression; slavery was good for the slaves; the South was mistreated; secession was legitimate; every Southerner supported it; Sherman was a savage while rebel generals were gentlemen; and on and on.
But the truth creeps in occasionally past history books pandering to Southern readers who make up the lion`s share of the Civil War book market. I learned something every heritage-seeking Southerner should know: how to respect many of those deserving ancestors who fought and died without idolizing the ugly cause itself, or those who started and profited from the horrific war between the states.
When Sherman entered South Carolina, the governor ordered his people to burn everything in his path so there was nothing for his army to use. But when the capital of South Carolina burned in front of him, it was blamed on Sherman. When Charleston burned and Sherman was nowhere near it, nobody accused the Southern generals of its mad destruction just days before the end of the war. Nobody in the South would dare.
Just as Confederate soldiers were ordered to burn cotton bales in the streets of Columbia on the windy day they retreated from facing Sherman`s army, in Charleston the retreating rebels tried to destroy everything of possible military value the night they left that city defenseless. In both cases, Union soldiers helped put out the fires and save the cities, but that is rarely part of the official Southern retelling.
So who was really responsible for the huge explosion of the Wilmington Station in Charleston on February 17, 1865, the night rebels left the city and 250 hungry civilians, including my great great grandmother, were killed while searching for food they thought the rebel army was leaving behind? Read about it in The Evacuation of Charleston.